Leadership change

In our current climate of Covid-19 ravaged schools Trust leaders have an opportunity to demonstrate strategic leadership.

Leadership is about change.  Setting the direction of change is fundamental to leadership.

If you are focussed on keeping the systems and structures running for normal routines and behaviours to continue, you are simply managing the situation.

Strategically you need to be changing something about the situation so that similar circumstances do not affect your normal routines as adversely in the future.

The difficult balance for leaders is between the urgent and the important.  Making sure there are sufficient teachers in school is an urgent task.  The important task is making sure that in a similar situation, at some time in the future, others know what to do to make sure there are sufficient teachers.

Of course, it is not just about teachers in school.  The number of consequences of this pandemic are many and conflicting.  It is a very tough time for schools. 

Over the last 2 years schools have seen enormous change thrust upon them, the greatest being the move to online teaching. Technology designed for business has been adapted for school.  Quickly and to a satisfactory level, teachers have coped and carried on.  Sometimes the results have been disappointing, sometimes amazing.

Leaders now need to learn from the successes and the mistakes, their own and those of others, and begin to plan.  Ask what good should look like, what needs to be done?  Ask what is right for your organisation, and ask what exists and what is new to help us progress?

When the pandemic struck our business we were about to launch our tool into the market.  During the pandemic we made attempts but we also noticed how the schools who had worked with us to develop the tool began to use it differently.  We asked what was needed and spent time during the pandemic working with these schools to add functionality they needed to succeed.

What we now have is a tool designed with schools that delivers for schools, teachers, pupils and parents.  It enables teaching to continue, and be both personalised and differentiated as required, during any interruption to school life. It is a comprehensive response for supporting in-school teaching (it’s initial function) and out of school teaching.  It shares resources, CPD, and is a communication and engagement tool with parents.

Most importantly it is so easy to use.  If you can access a web browser you can use the system.  Many teachers have been using it, without training, in under 15 minutes.

With everyone so stretched it is counter-intuitive to talk about introducing a new system.  Strategically it is the right time.  The benefits will be seen quickly and will grow.

A different approach to a school improvement plan

There are few harder tasks than to rapidly improve a school.

I know because I did it.

I’d like to share some of the things I learned along the way…

To improve a school quickly, you have to improve teaching so that learning increases and achievement rises.

To improve teaching quickly, you have to focus on the professional development of the teachers, but teachers can only be contractually directed to work for 1,265 hours a year and almost all of this is spent in the classroom teaching lessons.

So, you have to support it during the school day, in the form of release time from classroom teaching responsibilities.

However, this is problematic because it’s both costly and damages the learners progress in the short term.

It’s costly because to release a teacher for one day costs about £600. Half of this is the teacher’s salary, the other half pays for the supply teacher.  Imagine the number of days it takes to fundamentally improve a teacher’s teaching.

It damages progress because every time a lesson is delivered by someone who doesn’t know the learners well (i.e. supply teachers), the learners make less progress. Do this too often and you’ve got inadequate progress over time and you’re a failing school for supporting staff CPD.

I made some very bold decisions as a headteacher. Some probably called them rash, stupid or crazy, but the gamble paid off and we rapidly raised achievement, rapidly improving the school.

But here’s a thought. What if the process of teaching was teacher CPD? How transformational would that be? Teachers, developed by the very act of their teaching.

That would be quite something wouldn’t it?

Paul Rose

Beginning the process (again)

Today (5th January 2021) every UK school has sent home letters to parents moving the majority of children to remote learning.

For many school leaders there’s nothing that new in this pandemic driven crisis.

Leaders of failing schools are all too familiar with extreme anxiety, dramatic changes dropped suddenly and from a great height, staff absence, parental disquiet and so forth.

Having been the leader of a failing school I’m pleased to tell you, dear reader, that good news is around the corner.

No, it’s nothing to do with a vaccine, or that there is a strategy being developed from above. It’s that school improvement in a crisis is a process.

And of course, processes can be worked through.

Lockdown 1 followed a process: panic stations, formulate a plan, deliver and review, improve until stable.

This lockdown is slightly different because pressures and expectations are higher, but the process is identical.

This then is where the visionary leaders start to stand out. They are the ones who face a crisis, work through the process and go beyond to improve until ‘stable’.

They are the ones who push until improvement until ‘excellent’.

So today as you’ve begun this process again most will resettle on the stability of packs of worksheets, Zoom or Microsoft Teams sessions and phone calls home.

Those visionaries that are seeking more than stable take a look at YouTeachMe.

You’ll immediately see where it can help you deliver excellence once again.

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